Botswana, one of the leading safari destinations in the world, is well-known for its commitment to wildlife, environment and cultural conservation efforts. Around 38% of Botswana is reserved for the survival and growth of its phenomenal wildlife and other attractions including the bird life, historical sites, salt pans and some world-renowned national parks and game reserves.
Some of Botswana’s major national parks are Chobe National Park, Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Moremi Game Reserve and Okavango Delta. Botswana has two UNESCO World Heritage sites; Tsodilo Hills – a Cultural World Heritage Site – and Okavango Delta – a Natural World Heritage Site.
The summer months in Botswana are October to April, which is also the rainy season with peak rains in January and February. May to September are the dry months and the cooler winter season with June, July and August having the coldest mornings and evenings.
Based on Botswana’s climate zones, landscapes and weather, the best time to visit Botswana may vary from place-to-place. We have simplified this for you by listing some of the things you can do during each season: summer and winter.
Reasons to visit Botswana in Winter Season (Dry): May-Sep
- Favourable Climatic Conditions: During the days the weather is warm and sunny while the nights are cooler (often very cold in the peak winter months of June, July and August). Low humidity also ensures fewer bugs including mosquitoes.
- Wildlife Viewing: With the dwindling vegetation and grass, it becomes easier to spot wildlife even at a distance. In addition, waterholes are drying up and animals congregate around the available water supplies so it is easier to find them.
- Game Reserves and National Parks: The dry season is an ideal time for wildlife viewing and visiting Botswana’s premier game reserves and national parks as well as some of the other less well-known parks. Here are a few you can visit in the dry season for great game viewing.
- Manyelanong Game Reserve: May to December
- Chobe National Park: August to October
- Khama Rhino Sanctuary: April to November
- Moremi Game Reserve: July to October
- Okavango Delta: The world-renowned Delta grows thrice its regular size in the dry winter months of May, June and July due to the flood waters arriving from Angola. This bountiful water resource attracts animals from miles away: the flooded Okavango Delta surrounded by extraordinary wildlife is a sight to behold.
- Mokoro Trips: Drifting through the beautiful waterways of Botswana’s richest safari destination in a mokoro (traditional canoe) is a unique and unobtrusive way to explore the wildlife and nature.
- Chobe National Park: The dry season is an ideal time for wildlife viewing along the Chobe River in Chobe National Park as the river attracts a multitude of animals coming down to drink.
- Great Zebra Migration: The zebras spend their time in the floodplains of the Chobe River in the north of Botswana during the dry months of July, August, September, October and early November, before moving to Nxai Pan National Park in the south of Botswana around December.
- Botswana Day: September 30th is celebrated as Botswana Day. The citizens celebrate Botswana’s development in the form of street parties and parades.
- Tjilenje Cultural Festival: The cultural festival is held in the north-eastern part of Nlapkhwane, a town in Botswana. This annual festival is held in May and tribes from the nearest villages are seen participating and revelling in their culture.
- Tsodilo Hills: Even from a distance you’ll be able to see the hills rising out of the flat desert landscape. These hills have over 2000 ancient paintings which are sacred to the San Bushmen. A guide takes visitors through Tsodilo Hills explaining the significance of the paintings offering a unique insight into the San Bushmen culture and its development over the years. June to August is an ideal time to visit Tsodilo Hills.
- Gcwihaba Caves: Gcwihaba is a labyrinth of stalagmite and stalactite formations, pits, linked passages, and flowstones. When you enter the caves through the northern entrance, you’ll come across thousands of bats hanging upside down from the cave walls. These caves have been a part of the Botswana ecosystem for three million years.
- Aha Hills: One of the oldest Botswana attractions, the Aha Hills are 700 million years old. Like the Tsodilo Hills, they can be seen from a distance as they rise against the flat Kalahari desert landscape. The remote location with a lack of wildlife offers a retreat to wandering souls.
- Matsieng: This archaeological site in the south-east of Botswana located near Gaborone is known for the famous Matsieng Footprints, which have ties to local folk tales about a giant. Apart from the Matsieng Footprints, the site is also adorned with 117 engravings which are thousands of years old.
Reasons to visit Botswana in Summer Season (Wet): Oct-Apr
- Thunderstorms and Lightning: During the wet season, visitors may witness spectacular thunderstorms and lightning.
- Absence of Crowds: Visiting in the off-season (green season) has two-fold benefits; discounted rates and the freedom to explore the safari destinations without crowds.
- Bird Watching: Although Botswana is a birdwatcher’s haven year-round, it is even more so during the wet season when the birds are in breeding plumage. The very best months to see birds are November, December and March on either side of the peak rains in January and Feburary. Ideal birding spots include Chobe River swamps and Okavango Delta during the wet season while Central Kalahari Game Reserve is a great place to see birds if the seasonal rains arrive (it doesn’t rain every year here).
- Birthing Season: Animals such as zebra, springbok and impala give birth during the wet season and the young can be seen trailing their mothers. These vulnerable infants often fall prey to predators such as cheetah, lion, leopard, hyena and African wild dog.
- Lush Landscapes: The wet season rejuvenates the land and the lush vegetation paired with the stunning blue sky provides spectacular picturesque views.
- Savute Marsh: It’s a great time to view the wildlife of Savute Mash in the western part of Chobe National Park, which attracts a large number of animals at certain times of the year such as Burchell’s zebra and wildebeest as they pass through.
- Zebra Migration: During the wet season, zebras migrate from Chobe National Park to Nxai Pan National Park around December and remain there until March before starting their journey back north to Chobe.
- Central Kalahari Game Reserve: Unlike some of the other major game reserves in Botswana, Central Kalahari Game Reserve is best visited in the wet months between December and March. The rich birdlife, newborn animals and flooded Deception Valley, offer unique attractions. However, rains are not guaranteed every year, while if the rain does come in January and February it can make the roads muddy and inaccessible.
- Nata Bird Sanctuary: The abundant water source of the Nata River attracts a staggering number of both lesser and greater flamingos. The river is a reproduction site for these flamingos, who lay their eggs in tapered nests made of clay soil. The ideal time to witness this phenomenon in the Nata Bird Sanctuary is December to March.
- Maun Festival: Held in April, the Maun Festival celebrates Botswana’s culture and art and includes dance, music and poetry sessions.
- Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: The ideal time to visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is near the end of the wet season in March, April and May. Kgalagadi offers extraordinarily lush landscapes and plentiful opportunities for both animal and migrant bird sightings.
- Khutse Game Reserve: Like the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the wet season (December to March) is an ideal time for wildlife viewing in Khutse Game Reserve. The opportunities for bird watching and newborn animals are plenty during this time. In addition, there are often predators waiting to prey on these vulnerable baby animals.
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